Copyright: PETER DAWKINS and FEATHERED APPLE RECORDS
In June 1966 I set out with Dave Chapman on a great adventure, one I am probably still on.
Dave and I boarded the MV Fairsky to set out to the UK. As far as I know we were the pioneers in pop music becoming New Zealand’s first export. I had just turned nineteen. Dave was 21.
Members of my Christchurch based band were named Me And The Others. We were kind of brash, had loads of confidence and somehow felt quite invincible.
It was planned to meet the other two members in England as they had sailed a month before on the Australis. After six weeks of boredom, we arrived in Southampton, glad to be on terra firma once more.
|ME AND THE OTHERS (UK, 1966. L-R: Paul, Dave, Peter, and Gary)|
Paul Muggelston, our rhythm guitarist and singer, was there to meet us in his Triumph Herald. My drums were attached to the roof rack in the box they were packed in, and we sped off to London to the strains of Pirate Radio’s Caroline, playing the Kinks ‘Waterloo Sunset’ and The Troggs ‘With A Girl Like You’. It was a balmy summer's day, and all was well with the world.
After a brief stop over at my grandmother’s house in Ferrybridge, Yorkshire, we met up with the fourth member, Gary Thain, who had started playing with a band in Scarborough, a Yorkshire seaside holiday resort complete with a stony beach.
Finally we were together, and immediately we journeyed to London and secured a flat in Clapham. Then the job of finding work fell to me. I began by ringing every contact I had and this included a letter I had to Chris Blackwell, the legendary founder of Island Records. I had nursed the letter all the way from New Zealand and secured a meeting with the great man on the strength of it. He saw me at once, then read the letter with some interest.
“I am quite happy to give you an audition, but I have no idea who this letter is from”, he said sympathetically.
Embarrassed but relieved, I arranged for us to play for Chris, but alas he did not like the band. Later, we auditioned for Decca’s legendary Dick Rowe, whom we had hired the Marquee for. He arrived late, sat in the back for one song, and then left without a word. I justified it to the band, explaining that after all, he had turned down The Beatles. It was as tough as you would expect with every band we saw seeming to be better than Me And The Others. I was hanging out at the legendary ‘Ship Hotel’ on Wardour Street, when I struck gold, meeting a paraplegic agent named Dave Backhouse, who introduced me to his boss, Jack Fallon of Cana Variety. They promised us work but we would have to wait about six weeks.
As we walked back from the agency through Soho, we spotted a sign in a window advertising Knuckles Club, and mine host Viv Prince, former drummer for the legendary Pretty Things. I went in and introduced myself and instantly out came Viv’s scrapbook. It transpired that when the Pretty Things had toured New Zealand with Sandie Shaw, Viv had been deported after running on stage with a lighted newspaper and various other things that the police were reluctant to talk about at the time.
After Viv revelled in his memories, he gave us a gig over the next few weeks at the princely sum of eight pounds a night. This was far and away better than a kick in the teeth. It was not until we left that I discovered he was supposed to pay us twelve pounds a night. We played there until the Cana Variety work started. It was a great time with memories to dine out on for life. We even got a month’s booking at the PN Club in Munich, where we wooed the girls and played some of best sets. In 1966, into early 1967, the band decided to call it quits and two of the boys returned to New Zealand, with Gary and I staying behind and forming The New Nadir in Germany.
THE NEW NADIR in Switzerland '67. L-R: Peter Dawkins, Ed Carter, and Gary Thain.
It was a most exciting time to be a part of a growing music industry.
The New Nadir was really the first band I could feel proud of. It was not that anything was wrong with Me And The Others, it was just that I had to work so hard to achieve what I thought should have come naturally. It was lucky that Gary and I decided to stick together because as fate would have it, Ed Carter came into the PN Club looking for a bass player and drummer he had heard about. After a month of quick rehearsals, we were signed by the Swiss agent Freddie Whipfry, and booked to appear at the Hotel Hirschen in Zurich where we played for three months. It was long hours, working from 12.00 midday until 12.00 midnight, with one hour on and one hour off. Somehow our attitude saved the day. We were determined to utilize the time to rehearse and eventually came up with a killer set featuring a mixture of originals and blues flavoured music mixed with Indian. We called it Raga Rock. It stemmed from Ed Carter’s love of Indian music having been through the Ali Akbar Khan school at Berkeley, California. He taught the basics to Gary and me during the hour off, and then we would attempt it in the hour on. From these sessions came the beautiful Black Snow, which typified our efforts.
|ABOVE: THE NEW NADIR (1967 Swiss promo card, Eurex Records)|
After Zurich, we toured the German Canton of Switzerland and onto the PN Hit House in Saarbrucken for a month, where a group of fans hired a bus from Zurich to come and see us. We then hit Northern France playing Merlebach, Freyming and Saurgamine, before going on to Paris to play at the legendary Omnibus club.
We followed Hendrix and allegedly went down a lot better than his group.
It was mid 1967 when we landed back in England feeling pretty damned good and confident. We had decided to give it three months of only playing around the key gigs in London, all but ignoring the North of England, even though that was where the money was. Unfortunately, the north was going through a period of soul music, which we knew was not for us.
Instead we became regulars at The Speakeasy, Blaises, Blades, and The Bag of Nails and of course we played The Marquee. During this time we had some memorable gigs and made a recording for Polydor before the band decided to call it quits and I returned home to New Zealand, about to start on a successful career as a record producer. The band stayed together for a few gigs with US drummer Michael Kowalski, before bowing out in early 1968. Gary joined up with Keef Hartley and then Uriah Heep, before his untimely death at 22. Ed Carter went back to California and joined The Beach Boys as backup for Brian Wilson, and subsequently played lead guitar on ‘Bluebirds over the Mountain.’
Reflecting back we could have made it, but I feel that the internal pressure to succeed quickly was just too great. Still, it was a great time, and one I would not have changed for anything.
ABOVE: PETER DAWKINS at the Speakeasy, UK 1967
Thanks to Lenny Helsing of The Wildebeests, and Thanes for editorial help!
"DOWN THE LINE" is the blog spot of FEATHERED APPLE RECORDS
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